Posts Tagged ‘Morro’

September 25, 2014

September 17, 2014

Below the photo is an updated list of theatrical bookings to date. In addition, you’re invited to these special events:

October 3rd (Friday): Festival Premiere at “Doctober” Film Festival in Bellingham WA.

October 8th (Wednesday): Preview clips from “Pelican Dreams” and Q&A with filmmaker Judy Irving in Sonoma, CA.

October 25th (Saturday): Q&A with filmmaker Judy Irving at the Rialto Cinemas, Elmwood, Berkeley

November 1st (Saturday): Q&A with filmmaker Judy Irving at the Sebastiani Theater, Sonoma

November 2nd (Sunday): Q&A with filmmaker Judy Irving at the Rialto Cinemas, Sebastopol, accompanied by raptors from Sonoma County’s Bird Rescue Center, thanks to Executive Director Mary Ellen Rayner.

Dani offers Morro a stick

Dani offers Morro a stick

The film has so far been booked in 35 theatres across the country! Dates below are opening dates; runs will last at least a week in most venues, depending on audience turnout. Please tell friends!

24-Oct San Francisco Balboa theatrical premiere
24-Oct Berkeley Elmwood theatrical premiere
24-Oct San Rafael Rafael theatrical premiere
31-Oct Sonoma Sebastiani
31-Oct San Jose Camera 3
31-Oct Sebastopol Rialto
7-Nov NYC Angelika East Coast Premiere
7-Nov NYC Lincoln Plaza East Coast Premiere
7-Nov Santa Cruz Nickelodeon
7-Nov Santa Barbara Plaza de Oro
7-Nov Los Angeles Royal Los Angeles Premiere
7-Nov Pasadena Playhouse
7-Nov Encino Town Center
7-Nov Santa Ana, CA South Coast Village Theater
7-Nov Palm Springs Camelot Theater
14-Nov San Luis Obispo Palm “Morro” on Nov 15th!
14-Nov Modesto CA State Theater
14-Nov San Diego Gaslamp
21-Nov Larkspur CA The Lark
21-Nov Hartford CT Real Artways
21-Nov Washington, DC Angelika Pop-Up
21-Nov Santa Fe NM The Screen
21-Nov Missoula MT Roxy Theater
21-Nov Fairfax, VA Angelika Mosaic
28-Nov Arcata, Ca Minor Theater
28-Nov Portland OR Cinema 21 Pacific NW Premiere
28-Nov Seattle WA Sundance Pacific NW Premiere
28-Nov Seattle WA SIFF Pacific NW Premiere
28-Nov Ashland OR Varsity
28-Nov Portland ME Movies at the Museum
28-Nov Pittsburgh PA Regent Square
5-Dec Dallas Angelika Theater
5-Dec Plano Angelika Theater
5-Dec Honolulu Kahala Theater tentative but probable
5-Dec Waterville Railroad Square Cinema tentative but probable

February 28, 2014

February 28, 2014
pelicans roosting at Sutro Rocks, San Francisco

pelicans roosting at Sutro Rocks, San Francisco

The photo of pelicans roosting on Sutro Rocks above was taken in December, our second attempt at that location to get a “sunset-roost-settle-in-for-the-night” sequence that could be a backdrop for the rolling credits at the end of the movie. Finally got it!

The Aquarium of the Bay screening was “sold out” (even though it was free) within a few days of tickets becoming available. Not only was it a big audience, it was responsive, enthusiastic, and very helpful; about 175 people filled out questionnaires afterwards, which inform my final editing. To everyone who shared in this creative process, thank you!

One person suggested that I include a normal-speed pelican feeding frenzy in the film, since all of the diving footage was (then) slow-motion. I happened to have some normal-speed shots from a feeding sequence at Half Moon Bay, and put those in. The new sequence fit easily into a slot after Monte says, “Two things a pelican has to be able to do: it has to be able to see, and it has to be able to fly. And I mean fly well.” Many thanks to that anonymous audience member who made the suggestion. It shows us how wild and crazy it gets out there, how fast they actually fly and dive, and how easy it is to get hurt; and it comes before a sequence about Morro, who hurt his wing, probably while diving.

We now have what they call in the film business a “fine cut,” and we’re on our way to a “picture lock.” Kickstarter campaign details coming soon!

October 22, 2013

October 22, 2013
dani's back yard

A goose, a duck, a chicken, and a pelican!

That’s Dani Nicholson in her “magical kingdom” yard in Cayucos. We just got back from a trip to southern and central California that included some lucky film shoots, including a visit to Morro in his yard, and a visit to Pebble Beach, where we finally got some slow-motion shots of pelicans “surfing” the wave crests. Lovely!

adult surfs crestA

When a pelican’s life in the wild is going well, it goes very very well. They were so clearly enjoying themselves, it was a joy to watch. Pelicans are such accomplished fliers!

Meanwhile editing and fundraising continue. We’ve now shot almost everything we need and are working out the final structure. Lucy Phenix, a friend and colleague, has been consulting on the editing and it’s great to have another set of eyes on the footage.

We still have major lab expenses ahead of us, and look forward to working with “pelican angels” to bring in the funds we need.

February 17, 2013

February 17, 2013


Sadly for Morro, Oceano’s elbow injury had progressed too far, and he (Oceano) had to be euthanized. Morro awaits another companion…and I await the chance to film the resolution to his story.

Meanwhile I’ve been editing the rough cut, soliciting critique, and revising still more. I screened the first half-hour of these revisions at the Hillside Club in Berkeley on February 4th, and got very good feedback, so I think that section is working. Now I’m editing the last hour, prepping for a screening of the full rough cut at Haverford College on March 20th, where I’ll be doing a weeklong Artist’s Residency. After that will come the SF rough-edit screening.

Thanks to Tom and Kristi Cohen, Lorraine Grassano, and Judy Schultz for recent substantial individual donations to “Pelican Dreams,” and to Christine Joly for supporting our initial efforts in a big way.

My two previous feature documentaries will have screenings soon:


Diablo Canyon

anti-nuclear activists look at Diablo Canyon, then under construction

Dark Circle at NYC MoMA

1982. USA. Directed by Judy Irving, Chris Beaver, and Ruth Landy. This chilling, but ultimately hopeful, film explores how all of us have been affected by the nuclear age. Denounced by officials and shunned by broadcasters when it was first released, many of the issues it raises have become today’s front-page headlines. Print courtesy of Oakland Museum of California. (POV) 82 min.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 4:30 p.m., Theater 1, T1

NYC MoMA, 11 West 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues

Wild Parrots Movie Poster

Wild Parrots Movie Poster

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill at the Cosmic Cine Film Festival in Switzerland and Germany


Zurich Switzerland: Friday April 12th at 4pm in Arena Cinemas Zurich.
Munich, Karlsruhe, Darmstadt and Bonn, Germany (four simultaneous screenings) Friday April 19th at 4pm in the following cinemas:
• Cinema: Mathäser Filmpalast / City: Munich
• Cinema: Kinopolis / City: Bonn Bad Godesberg
• Cinema: Citydome / City: Darmstadt
• Cinema: Universum City Kinos / City: Karlsruhe

A link to a overview of all five locations:

On April 26th at 8:13 pm there will be an Awards Gala in Mathäser Filmpalast in Munich.

December 11, 2012

December 11, 2012

The lucky young bird, Bodega (see photo in previous post), did heal up and he was able to fly away, so he’s a wild pelican out there somewhere on the Pacific coast right now. Another possible partner for Morro showed up fairly quickly at Pacific Wildlife Care, the rehab facility in Morro Bay. Oceano, named for the town where he was picked up, has a wing injury similar to Morro’s, and only time will tell whether it will be too painful for him to endure, or whether it will heal up enough that he could be pain-free. Several vets agree that his injury will not allow him to fly again. So the choices for Oceano are different from Bodega’s: not freedom versus captivity, but captivity versus euthanasia.

Blue-eyed Morro stares at brown-eyed Oceano. He seems interested in everything about the new arrival.

Blue-eyed Morro stares at brown-eyed Oceano. He seems interested in everything about the new arrival.

Maybe it’s the fact that they’re closer in age (Oceano is also an adult, a year or two younger than Morro), but the two birds immediately hit it off. I filmed their meeting, and was struck by how differently Morro treated Oceano compared to Bodega during those first few hours. There was no “hazing” from Morro – he let Oceano jump onto “his” perches, let him eat “his” fish. Morro even jumped up on a small perch to try to get as close as he could to Oceano. The perch was so small that he couldn’t balance there, so Dani set up another perch so the birds could be together. The jury is still out on Oceano’s elbow injury, but I’ve got my fingers crossed, once again, that Morro has found his friend.

Meanwhile I’ve been editing up a storm, and I now have a 92-minute rough cut that I’ll show to several friends and filmmakers to get feedback. The plan is to prep another rough-cut version for an early spring screening at a larger venue, soliciting feedback from you, my audience, so I can finalize the structure and story line of “Pelican Dreams.”

November 8, 2012

November 9, 2012

For the past couple of years Morro has been hanging out with 8 chickens, 2 geese, and a duck, but he hasn’t had a pelican buddy since Toro and Chorro flew away. That changed last week, when a young pelican named Bodega arrived with an injured wrist.

Young Bodega at the instant he noticed the camera.

The six-month-old pelican was found dumpster diving at a fish cleaning station in Bodega Bay, and later developed a severe wrist infection. He stayed for several months at International Bird Rescue in Fairfield, then was transferred to Dani and Bill’s backyard rehab facility via the SPCA in Monterey.

After a short hazing period in which Morro taught Bodega the rules of the bird yard (“That’s my perch! That’s my pool! That’s my bowl of fish!”), they are now fast friends. Bodega follows Morro everywhere. They preen, waddle, eat, and sleep near each other.

No one knows whether Bodega will someday be able to fly. If he does, great; if not, he will become an “educational pelican” like Morro and they will have each other. Part of me hopes, of course, that Bodega will fly free again. That’s what Dani and Bill want. Part of me, though, doesn’t want to see Morro disappointed and lonely again. Only time will tell.

October 10, 2012

October 10, 2012

There’s nothing like knowing you have to show your work in public to inspire intense editing focus. Our September 12th benefit screening of “Pelican Dreams” (work-in-progress) was well attended, raised funds for the San Francisco Green Film Festival, and helped kick the editing process into high gear. Although the film doesn’t yet have its complete ending because Morro’s story is still evolving, the overall structure is beginning to emerge. About 45 people attended the screening at the 9th Street Media Arts Center, and many provided helpful feedback, both during the Q&A and in writing via a questionnaire. This critique helps me see my blind spots as an editor, including items that are confusing, too long, or too short. During the screening I sat in the back of the room, could feel the audience’s “vibe,” and had lots of my own thoughts as to how the film could be improved. The process of editing and re-editing is ongoing, and we’ll schedule another rough-cut screening when the movie’s ending is complete.

Footage obtained from the BBC (slow-motion underwater dive shots), Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (horribly oiled pelican from the Gulf Spill), and from still photographers like Rob Bishop (see the pelican in the mouth of a whale! – this bird later escaped by floating out the side) and Stephen McLaren (white pelican “walking to work” in a British park, pictured earlier in this production blog) help tell the story. In some cases this footage was extremely pricey; in other cases it was donated. In all cases it was needed to fill gaps and to expand the visual palate of the movie.

Rob Bishop photo

pelican in the mouth of a humpback whale, photographed near Morro Bay by Rob Bishop

Morro, meanwhile, got a job! Dani Nicholson found out that as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, she was eligible to apply to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for an “education permit” for Morro. The process took six months, but she got her permit, and Morro has started making trips to campgrounds and other locales to wow attendees with up-close pelican experiences, probably closer than they’ve ever been to one. Here’s a shot of Morro near Morro Rock, with Morro Bay in the background.

Morro gets a job

Morro gets a job as an avian ambassador. He’s the first and only pelican working in “education” in California. Photo by Rob Bishop.

“Education” isn’t his favorite thing in the world to do – he’d rather be sitting on his lounge chair in the yard – but it’s required that a non-releasable migratory bird either be euthanized or licensed for education. An obvious choice! So now Morro has a good job and a wonderful place to live. All he needs is…..(you fill in the blank).




November 27, 2011

June 24, 2012

Rachel Carson wrote of a “silent spring” in which no birds would sing in her classic, paradigm-shifting 1962 book, predicting by several years what biologists found on Anacapa Island in 1969: hundreds of pelican nests with crushed eggshells, all due to DDT. Adult pelicans had eaten DDT-laced fish, which interfered with calcium production, making shells so thin that when parents tried to incubate them, they crushed them instead.

Egg affected by DDT

These iconic Channel Islands images helped launch the environmental movement, and led to the banning of DDT in 1972. Brown pelicans were declared “endangered” even before there was an Endangered Species Act. Last summer, in a garage in Grant’s Pass, Oregon, we retrieved 16mm footage of the Anacapa discovery, thanks to the son of the filmmaker, Dave Siddon. Here is a still from that footage, which we recently had transferred to HD files. The same DDT, on the ocean floor near LA, is now interfering with the nesting success of California condors, and the same scientist, Bob Risebrough, who discovered the problem in 1969 is now working on the condor issue, making history contemporary, and showing us how long-lived these contaminants actually are.

People who love pelicans in Morro Bay have started a new program called the “Fish to Farm Compost Project,” providing special garbage cans to charter fishing boats, so that when deckhands filet fish they throw the heads and skeletons in the can, rather than over the side. A composter picks up the cans free of charge, and makes fish compost that he sells to gardeners. This project solves a common cause of pelican mortality: Many die with large fish heads and bony skeletons stuck in their necks. In this image you can see the birds still hoping for freebies, and me filming from the dock. This simple, innovative project deserves to spread all along the Pacific coast.

Hungry Pelicans

This fall we again visited Morro, who now sports his full adult plumage. I have to say, not only is he a handsome bird, but Morro is fast becoming the star of this movie. Not quite free, because of his injured wing, but not captive either, because he can leave the yard if he so chooses, Morro has maximum freedom of choice. One of his choices is to perch on top of the chaise lounge. I’d wanted to film this, and finally got there at the right time. Morro is so comfortable in the yard that he has started getting curious about the buildings, too. More on that in the movie. I don’t want to give everything away!

Morro and Chaise Lounge

July 7, 2011

June 24, 2012

When young pelicans are finished with their rehabilitation – they’ve eaten lots of fish, they’re waterproof, any injuries they’ve had are healed – sometimes Dani brings them to her yard for awhile, where they release themselves when they’re ready. They fly from perch to perch, higher and higher: from the cages, to the wooden gate, to the house roof, and finally to the sky, where they circle around, get their bearings, and soar west to the ocean, less than half a mile away. It’s a beautiful sight. Last week we filmed several birds releasing themselves, and recorded Morro’s reactions. He watched them take off, then hopped up on a banana palm stump and flapped his wings, making several short fly-hops to the grassy yard. It’s as far as he can go with his bad wing. In the photo above Morro has settled back into his afternoon routine as a yardbird, sitting on a small table next to Dani in the hammock, very interested in the stick she’s holding. A few seconds later, Morro grabbed the stick, shook it, and flung it away. I had no idea before I started this film how much pelicans have in common with dogs.

Dani and Morro

May 18, 2011

June 24, 2012

Pelicans have a seriously silly side, which Stephen McLaren captures in his photos of American white pelicans who’ve taken up residence in London’s St. James’s Park. I hope to be able to use several of Stephen’s photos in “Pelican Dreams.”

Strolling Pelican

We filmed another funny training session with Pardito at WildCare, where he did the “turn” successfully about half the time, but often looked quizzically at Mary and ending up nipping her leg.


In Cayucos, Morro is settling into his back-yard digs,  learning to play catch with Bill (the day I was there Bill threw celery stalks, then fish; Morro much preferred the fish). He knows he can’t fly, so instead he finds sticks to fling and tables to sit on while searching, literally, for his place in the sun.

Bill and Morro

A note: Lately we’ve been shooting full HD with a Canon camera, getting used to the settings and the fact that it records to files rather than film or tape. A whole new world.